Survey:AOL falls short on customer service
October 7, 2001
By JIM BROOKS
A new study by the Gartner Group confirms what most independent
Internet providers have known for a long time -- America Online may
be the biggest Internet access provider in the world, but they
frequently aren't the best.
AOL may boast more than 31 million subscribers worldwide, but when it
comes to customer service, the service fails miserably.
A survey completed in August confirms the notion that many users and
independent Internet providers have suspected -- AOL Time Warner is
the least trusted company on the Internet when compared to banks,
credit card companies, retailers and even Microsoft.
In recent times, AOL users have also complained about pricing and
getting customer support issues handling in a timely manner. The
number of anti-AOL Web sites has grown, the survey found.
AOL may capture newcomers who venture on the Internet, but many users
-- once they get some experience -- wake up to the fact that they can
usually access the Internet at less cost, greater reliability and
with less hassle than they can with AOL.
In response to the survey's findings, an AOL spokesman smugly replied
that the company's growth has never been stronger.
LEGAL ACTION II. Now that Napster has been collared and is
being relaunched as a pay service that will respect music labels'
copyrights, attorneys for the music industry are setting their sights
They began last week the chore of protecting their copyrights from
infringement by the multitude of Napster clones that have filled the
void that Napster left when it was shut down. Lawsuits against the
services are underway at this writing.
But this time, it's more than just music labels joining in the
lawsuits. The next-generation of file-swapping services allows any
files to be swapped -- including music, video and even software applications.
The plaintiffs in the latest legal action include MGM Studios,
Columbia Pictures, and the Sony and Warner music groups
The companies claim that the file-sharing software used by Grokster,
and MusicCity networks is being used and dedicated to the
unauthorized distribution of their protected works.
MusicCity is based in Franklin, Tenn., while Grokster operates from
the island of Nevis in the West Indies. Both companies use similar
software developed by Amsterdam-based Consumer Empowerment BV.
MusicCity calls its software "Morpheus," while Grokster's
version is named after the company.
Both services have grown significantly since Napster went offline
earlier this summer.
They differ from Napster in the way their network is built -- Napster
used a central computer for indexing files, while Grokster and
MusicCity do not. In fact, even if MusicCity were shut down, the
software installed on users' computers would allow the sharing
network to continue.
``The network is self-sustaining,'' Steve Griffin, MusicCity chief
executive said recently.
Attorneys for the music and movie industry say both companies must
perform housekeeping and maintenance chores to keep their services
working, and that both do have control of what sorts of files are
swapped and shared.
At this writing, MusicCity's Morpheus was still in operation, though
the legal challenges will certainly threaten its operation.
STUDENT DISCOUNT. Hoping to prompt more people to upgrade,
Microsoft Corp. will begin selling its Office XP business software at
a steep discount to students and teachers.
While Microsoft has always offered volume discounts to schools and
reduced prices at university bookstores on its products, this will be
the first time the discount will be available to K-12 users at
mainstream computer outlets.
Students and teachers won't need to show identification or other
proof they are students, though the licensing agreement does
stipulate the version is for student/academic use.
The discount version will include all the software of its full-price
edition, including Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The
documentation is geared toward users with some familiarity with
earlier versions of Office.
The discount version will be available nationwide on Oct. 25.
For more information, visit www.microsoft.com/howtobuy/academic.htm
on the Web.
ABOUT.COM RETRENCHES. With online advertising revenues still
falling off for major Web sites, About.com has laid off 20 percent of
its staff and killed off more than 300 of its niche Web sites.
About.com plans to move from its old format of information-oriented
niche sites to one that emphasizes e-commerce revenues and subscriptions.
The old format that had something for everyone is gone. Gone are
sites devoted to education, air travel, women's basketball, animal
rights and dozens of other categories.
Sites with similar topics, or within a similar vein will be merged.
For example, a site devoted to the Beatles will be merged with one
about classic rock 'n' roll music.
About.com started life as The Mining Company in 1997, and the site
has consistently been in the Top 10 most popular Web sites, according
to Jupiter Media Metrix.
For more information, visit about.com at http://about.com.